I don’t think I’d heard the term “Friendsgiving” at any point in my life prior to an Unleashed meeting several weeks ago. At least, I have no recollection of a previous occasion. A fellow Unleashed member brought it up as a potential group activity for us to do together close to Thanksgiving; shortly thereafter, Friendsgiving went from theoretical concept to tangible plan.
(Allow me room for a tangent: the people in this young adult singles group know how to get. Things. Done. Common, ordinary yokels can bandy around hypothetical situations all they want with no intention of bringing them to fruition. Not these folks. It means I have to guard what I say when suggesting activities, because even if I make a passing joke about what we should do, it feels like a guarantee that someone will jump on it and make it happen. And that’s not a criticism. If anything, it’s a testament to the willpower within the group. Okay, tangent over)
The whole thing fell into place rather seamlessly, from what I was able to perceive. As the Thanksgiving week drew nearer, plans were formed. Dates were suggested and voted upon. One friend volunteered to host. Other friends volunteered to bring particular foods and drinks. Through one person’s idea, a community banded together to bring a concept to life. To pitch in and make something happen. As a team.
Thus, on Saturday, November 23, we gathered. I entered the hostess’ house to find a state of what I’ve decided to call “purposeful chaos.” The kitchen was a hurricane of activity—people rushing, people cooking, people moving between rooms to set the dining table and maneuver food and trays—and yet it was with good intent and dedicated direction. I stood around, a tad overwhelmed and unfocused, until someone handed me a utensil and told/asked me (I can’t remember which) to stir cooked carrots. Cool. A contribution on my end. A minor one, but it definitely felt good to be able to help with the rest of the crew.
(I got a crew, ya’ll, how awesome is that?)
I honestly hope that everyone collaborating on our meal, no matter their task(s), understands the effort they all put in to make preparing our Friendsgiving feast a smooth process. I don't know all the coordination and planning and hours of prep that went into getting things ready; I don't know all the snags and bumps and frustrations encountered. I do know, however, that a million pieces needed to be put together, like some kind of Thanksgiving-flavored jigsaw puzzle, and even though several people undertook heavier responsibilities than others, a group effort enabled all the work to get done. I stirred carrots; someone else made dumplings; someone got the table set; the dude I meet with for accountability mixed cranberry cocktail and Sprite together for a fantastic hybrid drink. And I don’t care if all I got to do was stir carrots. I hope it helped.
You put a group of people who genuinely care about what they’re doing and genuinely care for and want to help each other together in the same house, on a project such as this, and you get some dang good results. We ended up with a smorgasbord of traditional Thanksgiving options like turkey, masked potatoes, and rolls alongside unique choices such as dumplings and mac and cheese (always a winner in my book). The options pointed to the individual personalities within the group and reflected how we wanted to share with each other the foods we savored and loved.
But what’s good food without good discussion? I’ve always been a sucker for conversations amongst friends. Sure, we can go line dancing and swing dancing, or we can see a movie or get together for games. But for me, the highlight of any social gathering is conversing together. Just sitting around and shooting the breeze, cracking jokes, making references, sharing whimsical anecdotes, and learning more about the people around me. Breaking bread, though a fantastic activity in itself, also serves as a beautiful gateway into worlds of conversation.
During dinner, we joked about each other, told stories about weddings and church services, and even started laying the foundations for a new religion intended solely for profit (purely a joke, mind you, purely a joke). Smaller conversations broke out at opposite ends of the table, joined by others as they were interested, sometimes blending into larger discussions. Everyone participated, everyone was heard. Yes, some of us (raises hand sheepishly) can talk more than some others, but I think we kept the atmosphere lively and open and allowed voices to be heard between bites of food.
I should add most of this was due to two factors: first, our ability to connect as a group prior to Friendsgiving. Several folks had been attending Unleashed for years, forming connections over time. Others, like myself, were newer attendees, but through several weeks of participation in small group discussions, accountability, and outside activities (shout out to the inner circle! Woo woo!), we’d crafted new friendships and strengthened previously existing bonds. This was a group of people I’d personally been building friendships with for the past two months, and a level of comfort already existed and enabled conversation and laughter to flow easily.
Second, the diverse personalities that make up the group. We had people who were quick on their feet when it came to cracking jokes; people who were just as quick at rebutting those jokes with cracks of their own; people who latched onto a bit of conversation and told outlandish personal stories; people willing to take conversations into deeper, more serious waters; people with unique experiences that differed from those of others. We all brought our voices, interests, histories, and forms of humor to the table, and our conversation was better for it.
Games, naturally, filled out the second half of the evening. A guys vs. girls round of “Fishbowl” proved that we really need a better way of picking teams, cause I’m fairly certain this is the second time I’ve played with this group where the men have gotten whipped by the women. One buddy on my team kept going on about how each team had one “powerhouse” player. To him, I say, dude, we both learned the hard way the girls had not one, but three powerhouses who just blew the doors off the hinges. The game wasn’t a complete massacre, but I think we still learned a valuable lesson (and whose team to be on next time we play).
“Zip, Zap, Zop” was a much more fulfilling game. One player jabs at someone else in a “circle” of players (but not the person to their immediate right or left) and say “Zip.” That person quickly says “Zap” to a third player, who does the same with a “Zop.” The motions and phrases repeat until someone messes up and is eliminated. The circle shrinks until the last two players duel it out head-to-head for honor, glory, and fame. It’s fast-paced inanity that requires you to respond quickly while keeping the pattern straight in your head. “Frantic” is a good way to describe it. It’s pretty fun.
And becoming two-time world champion of ZZZ isn’t too bad either. Just saying. You guys can fight me for the title later. Bring it.
I’m a huge fan of games amongst friends, much like with conversation. Activities such as these bring an element of amusing unpredictability and healthy competition to a group and help show you a side of people you rarely see. And while games aren’t childish, I’d also argue they provide something childlike to a group of friends. If you were like me growing up, you ran around with friends and siblings and imagined yourselves as characters, or played with toys, or engaged in physical activities like sports or tag. Those forms of entertainment tend to die down as you get older, replaced by conversations and food and other “older” or more "mature" methods of amusement. Playing games, for me, is a way to bring in that “childlike” side, to do something with a group of people that can end up being inane and fun and, for lack of a better phrase, kinda silly.
“Friendsgiving” wasn’t intended to be a compound word, but it is: “Friends giving.” Friends giving up their time to prepare a meal; friends giving of their energy to plan and prepare a party; friends giving words of encouragement; friends giving people a hard time and joking around; friends giving their other friends a run for their money in “Fishbowl”; friends giving their leftovers to someone who needed the extra food.
I’ve got new memories to reflect on, new moments to enjoy, new stories to share. I’ve been looking at photos from Friendsgiving on Facebook and some of our Unleashed GroupMe chats. Each one makes me smile, because each photo brings me back to those scenes and memories and, with them, the feelings that came with those moments. For the friends who attended, I hope those photos and these words serve as beautiful reminders of not only Friendsgiving but also the reasons why we gather and why we gotta keep on gathering.
I keep talking about this group with other people. I’ve mentioned it at work, I’ve talked to friends about it, I’ve invited some people to share in the experience. You tend to talk a lot about what you love, meaning it’s safe to say I love belonging to this community.
This Thanksgiving, I certainly know what I’m thankful for.
I’m thankful for the friend who initially suggested and put together this entire event.
I’m thankful for the friend who opened up her house and hosted our fabulous gathering.
I’m thankful for the friends who prepared and carved the turkey, the centerpiece of our meal.
I’m thankful for the friends who provided their unique tastes and delicious dishes to our feast.
I’m thankful for the friend who brought that delicious cranberry cocktail/Sprite combo. Dang, that was good.
I’m thankful for my cousin, who attended despite only visiting our group one other time earlier that week.
I’m thankful for the friend of a friend who came, new as she was to our group and our dynamic.
I’m thankful for the women who whomped us in “Fishbowl,” proving to the guys that new strategies are needed for future victories and generally keeping us humble.
I’m thankful for the dudes who tried their darndest to claim a “Fishbowl” championship, making a valiant go for the gold despite our futile attempts. Next time, boys.
I’m thankful for the friend who kicked the snot out of us in “Bananagrams,” displaying a level of mastery at the Scrabble-esque game I have yet to achieve.
I’m thankful for the hilarious stories shared, for even the little insights into other’s lives.
And I’m thankful for God’s provision over the last two months, for pulling me away from where I was and inserting me into a group He knew I needed. I have received blessing upon blessing, and I promise you all, I’m gonna keep writing about them until I’m sick of it.
Or until you’re all sick of it. I guess that works, too.
Thanks to everyone who attended for a beautiful evening. I’m feeling like I should really host something now.